HOW OLIVIA ONYEMAOBI IS PROVIDING AFFORDABLE & SUSTAINABLE SANITARY PADS FOR GIRLS & WOMEN IN NIGERIA
Olivia Onyemaobi is a 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur and the Founder/CEO of Pad-Up Creations, a social enterprise that’s changing the lives of young girls and women in Nigeria with 100% chemical free, Eco friendly, washable and reusable menstrual pads.
In this interview, you’ll find out how she commercialized the making of the washable and reusable sanitary pads in Nigeria.
Welcome to Under35CEO! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you. My name is Olivia Onyemaobi, I am the founder and CEO of Pad-Up Creations. I am happily married and blessed with 3 lovely children. I have a B.Sc. in Accounting and M.Sc. in Business Administration. I have 7 publications. In fact my last book (The Missing Star) inspired the establishment of Pad-Up Creations.
What influenced the choice of your career? Why social entrepreneurship?
I have always loved social work, especially when it involves girls. I worked in multinationals for about 8 years. In fact, my last job was with a commercial bank in Nigeria, as an Auditor. Though the job was related to my area of specialization, I was not feeling fulfilled.
However, I used my weekends and break period from the office to attend to social need. What caught my attention was the rate of sexual abuse on girls. Having a childhood experience on that gave me a leverage to develop therapies that would help sexually abuse girls to overcome the sexual trauma. The truth is, most children are sexually abused but you know, they cannot openly tell you their experiences, until they develop a level of trust in you.
So I started the campaign, educating, counseling and administering therapy on sexually abused girls in schools in Nigeria. Then I used my last book-“The Missing Star” as a campaign tool. So many girls picked the book as a novel but after reading the story, many of them were calling in to confess how they suffered abuse. I even had adults, calling in to get counseled. Then, so many people started coming in as volunteers to assist me in the work.
So from my interaction with the girls, we had many of them who were sexually abused repeatedly because they lacked sanitary pads. In some locations, we saw girls making use of dry grasses, feathers, rags, old foams, leaves, wet newspapers, etc. to care for their menstrual flow. And so we knew that the problem of sexual abuse on girls may not be solved, except we solve the problem of sanitary pads.
And then our research on a sustainable solution to the problem of sanitary pads in Nigeria gave birth to the Pad-Up Menstrual Kits which are affordable, chemical free, Eco friendly, washable and reusable for a minimum period of 1 year.
Why social entrepreneurship? Well, it is a response to the call of nature. I saw the need, I brought the solution.
Pad-Up Creations is a social enterprise involved in the production of hygiene female wares. Can you tell us more about your company?
Pad-Up Creations manufactures innovative and sustainable female sanitary wares. We also organize menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health training for girls and women in Nigeria. Our office is at Tunga Lowcost, near Banana house, Niteco road, Minna, Niger state. Our website is: www.padupcreations.com. We have a team of self-motivated and vision driven staff. We are majorly concerned about solving the challenges girls and women face monthly, taking care of their menstrual flow.
Tell us about your products and services.
We manufacture the Pad-Up Menstrual Kit-(Sanitary pads), the pad-Up Nursing pads, the Pad-Up Panty Liner, the Pad-Up Menstrual belt and the padded pants.
All our products are super thin, leak proof with high absorption rate, breathable (allows air to flow through), and have minimum reusable period of 1 year. Our sanitary pads have protective wings that fasten beneath the panties.
We also educate girls and women on menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health through the schools, women groups and religious/social groups.
How important is financial performance and profit generation for a social enterprise?
In every business, cash is king, profit is a great motivator but as a social enterprise, our focal point is the mission of the organization. Our cash flow has been positive, since inception, and we have been returning about 30% of our profit to the most vulnerable girls in the society.
What’s you big vision for Pad-Up Creations?
We have the vision to be among the 5 leading companies in the sanitary ware industries in the world in the next 5 years. Vision 5’ in 5’. It might look impossible to you, well, we’ll get there soon.
What do you think can be done to change the mindsets of young people, and create a shift towards social development space?
A greater percentage of young people are being carried away by the social media. They are either tweeting or keeping abreast with every message on their timeline without creating value out of it. I think there is need for more social and entrepreneurship programs from the private sectors; that are geared towards igniting the entrepreneurship craving and yearning to be involved in social change among the youth.
How can aspiring social entrepreneurs create a social enterprise from the scratch?
It is important they understand what value they want to create. They should be able to define their value proposition, ascertain its implementation in Nigeria, and strategize on how to implement their innovation. Start the business and give it all the time it needs. No one else can run your business better than you who conceived the vision; your business needs your time.
What have been some of the high points and major milestones you’ve recorded in your business?
We have been able to affect the lives of over 40,000 Nigerian girls and women with our washable and reusable sanitary pads, menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health trainings in less than 8 months.
And the lows? What have the challenges been? And how did you overcome them?
As the first company that commercialized the making of the washable and reusable sanitary pads in Nigeria, it was difficult getting all the people who have technical knowledge about the machines. So I had to travel out to learn how to operate some of the basic machines. Also, we had people rejecting the product at first. You can meet someone who is using toilet paper as a menstrual care material telling you she cannot use washable pads. Well, we knew the problems associated with all the materials that women use for their menstruation and we started by exposing the dangers to their health. Now, we have every class of girls and women using our products. We hope to do more.
What other social enterprises inspire you?
There are many of them in Nigeria. A few are: Recycle point, Wecyclers and Mother’s delivery kits.
What’s your opinion on mentorship – have you benefitted from it? And what are your thoughts on the value and importance of mentorship, especially amongst young entrepreneurs?
Once anyone wants to succeed in business, then the need to have a mentor cannot be over emphasized. That you have a Ph.D. doesn’t mean you don’t need mentors as long as business is concerned. You see, one of the reasons most businesses in Africa fail is because they lack the required managerial skills. For instance, I was thinking that with my level of experience in my past jobs, I have acquired enough business knowledge, until I was matched to a mentor in the 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program. Then I realized that I knew very little about business. I will advise every young entrepreneur to get a mentor, look for one otherwise you might make some terrible business decisions that you may not come out of.
What inspire you to wake up everyday and keep working on Pad-Up Creations?
I have answered the call to build that bridge through which many young girls and women will pass through and I must not fail them. The desire to create more jobs, provide affordable and sustainable sanitary pads for girls, give relevant health information to young girls and many more.
What do you do to develop yourself?
I read everything. I like reading people, profiles, books. I don’t mind spending my last to be in training. I love acquiring new knowledge and never shy to learn from anyone.
Word of advice for young and aspiring social entrepreneurs.
Please, stop dreaming, wake up and start working on your ideas. Don’t be afraid to fail. When I quit the banking job, many people asked, “will you make as much as your salary? Are you sure you have taken the right decision…?” And I told myself, lady, you’ll not fail, but even if you fail, PLEASE get up, dust you clothe and keep moving. So don’t be afraid of failure, don’t give up on your idea!
Finally, what’s your thought about Under35CEO?
It is important for people to read success stories, because they will always motivate someone. And that is the great job Under35CEO is doing, giving voice to entrepreneurs. I really appreciate your work. Thank you so much.
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